An Ode to Hamburgers (sort of)

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Full Stomach, Fuller Heart

(an occasional series)

This will be my last food memoir. Unless it isn’t. Even as I type, possibilities are appearing in the Magic 8-Ball window of my memory (Q. “Are there other foods I should write about?” A. “Reply hazy, try again”).

My earliest walk down hamburger lane led to the world’s oldest surviving McDonald’s. Located in the L.A. suburb of Downey, California, it was built long before Mickey D’s went on to conquer the known universe. And its mascot wasn’t a clown, it was an animated-neon chef named Speedee.

Mom and Dad counted pennies in those days, so it was the only place we could afford to eat out. Our tiny, novice-level tract home was just blocks away, and we’d walk there together–a big adventure for me since I wasn’t even allowed to cross the street on my own. That was where I learned to order a hamburger “with mustard only.”

Just like Dad.

A few years later, we graduated to a bigger tract home in a brand new suburb across the border in booming Orange County. As a newspaper dealer, my father worked seven days a week, so I have very few “just me and Dad” memories; and the ones I do have are tied to the newspaper biz.

There were ticky-tacky tracts everywhere, with brand new lawns just waiting to sprout, and newlywed couples just waiting to subscribe to the Herald Express. So every other week or so, Dad would round up his most enterprising paperboys, which included me, and we’d knock on front doors. Think of us as younger, cuter Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I was a quick-talking hambone with an irresistible grin (practice makes perfect). So I nearly always claimed the night’s “Most New Subscribers” bonus. Which was great, but putting the look of pride on Dad’s face was my goal, not putting money in my bank account.

Afterward, Dad would take us to a local McDonald’s wannabe, Sam’s Burgers, where I’d order a cheeseburger “with mustard-only.”

Just like Dad.

We’d eat and laugh, just me and Dad, and, oh yeah, the other boys. But, honestly, it seemed like no one else was even there.

Hamburgers aren’t my favorite food anymore. Although I do appreciate a well-grilled gourmet hamburger with fresh and inventive toppings. But there’s still a place in my heart for those greasy little burger-stand burgers “with mustard only.” Because, in the Magic 8-Ball window of my memory, that translates to…

Just me and Dad.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to An Ode to Hamburgers (sort of)

  1. Dora says:

    “Just me and Dad” – Says it all, doesn’t it? Funny how so many good memories center around food too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. grAnnie Roo says:

    WOWEE! A steady signal (in town)and a fresh post I can comment upon!! A landmark day in our family was when I took my four boys to that same McDonald’s since I had be in the neighborhood. We knew about skimping pennies: my 3 smallest boys were delighted to share a burger and fries, and #1 son (already huge by then) got his own burger and fries (Mom opted to wait till we returned home for dinner). With a very basic menu and wonderful kids that were so easily pleased, life was so much simpler back then. HAPPY NEW YEAR one and all!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this ode to hamburgers that isn’t really about hamburgers! My food-related dad memory involved krullers and orange soda. (My adult self shudders at the thought.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year to you and your family. Lovely memories just me and Dad. I remember my Dad when we live in Australia taking me to an American Restaurant which specialised in Waffles I loved it, I do not think in those days Hamburgers had arrived in Australia. They were a special trip just the two of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mitch a great story. Being older we had a fast food hamburger chain named Sandy’s in Ohio and we did drive there as a family. But the other critical part of your story was the Magic 8 Ball. I used one to get my company out of bankruptcy. We were surrounded by lawyers and bankers all with their own strong opinions. The Magic 8 Ball gave the most correct answers of any group and gave me pleasure in telling them so! It now sits proudly on my home bookshelf.
    Brad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great memories!

    In our town there was this rickety old hamburger stand where you could buy a bag of 5 burgers for a buck (buck twenty-five for cheese burgers). That’s where my Dad would take us for burgers on a Sunday afternoon. Mother would take us to MacDonald’s once in awhile for “fancy” burgers and a milkshake.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love how you share your childhood memories… I’m right there with you. Got a good laugh at your line, “Think of us as younger, cuter Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. henhouselady says:

    My husband grew up on San Berdo. He remembers the first McDonalds thr

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rocky says:

    Good story, Mitch. Burgers are still my number 1 food. I’ve tried the fancy froo froo burgers, and the fancy Elvis with bananas on a donut, but for my money, I’ll take the good old hand formed, smashed on a flat top grill with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard and Mayo on a toasted sesame bun. Can’t be beat, IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gina Cash says:

    Very heart warming story. Also brought a bit of a tear to my eye.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Candice says:

    Remember when we could get change back from our dollar when we ordered a hamburger and fries from McDonald’s?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. K.L. Hale says:

    You made your Dad proud, Mitch. I love this story of grease and gratitude. 🍔❣

    Liked by 2 people

  13. revruss1220 says:

    Wonderful memory, beautifully re-told. Thanks for taking us along in that trip to your past, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Teressa says:

    Ah, yes, hamburgers. No McD’s in the small town where I grew up. But there were burgers. Dad got paid on the 15th of the month and the family went to the bowling alley where we each got a hamburger deluxe – I think the deluxe was the side of french fries.
    Thanks for sharing a memory that triggered a memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. JOY journal says:

    Burgers are my weakness, along with brownies and jelly beans. There’s a place on the shore of Lake Erie (Sally’s Diner at Presque Isle) that makes the best burger I’ve ever seen. That and an icy Coke (the beach is the only place I ever drink pop for some reason) conjures up summer. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I read this and now I’ve got Barbra Streisand singing in my head.

    Memories
    Light the corners of my mind
    Misty watercolor memories
    Of the way we were . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Touching, and what a tribute to your dad!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. uncoffined says:

    It’s neat that you have some pleasant memories of your father associated with Mcdonalds.
    Hope you had a happy xmas, and have a happy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love reading the posts about you and your dad. I was transported. Great writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. markbierman says:

    What a great tribute to a shared memory of your Dad. He sounds like a hard working man who loved his family. 🙂 The photo of the classic McDonald’s is really neat.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I made an interesting comment on this post yesterday, but it disappeared. This has been happening lately; my carefully crafted comments go straight to SPAM. Is this censorship, WP?🥸

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Re-Farmer says:

    Oh, what a wonderful memory! Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

    I am reminded of my first time going to a McDonald’s. My older siblings and I, all 5 of us, had gone into the city *without our parents*. !!! I don’t actually remember anything about the trip, except that we stopped at McDonald’s before driving the hour + back to the farm.

    I was about 10 years old. My only knowledge of the existence of McDonald’s would have been from TV commercials I ignored. When we went into the city with my parents, we never went to any sort of restaurant, ever. It was also the first time I’d ever had a cheeseburger. It blew me away! I’d never tasted anything so good! A cheeseburger, by itself, cost 60 cents. After I inhaled the first one, I begged for more. My sister gave me some money and I got another. Then another. Then another! I don’t know how many I had, but for the last one, my siblings dug out 6 dimes and told me that was it, there was no more money to get more.

    I don’t think the 5 of us ever went into the city as a group like this again, and cheeseburgers never quite tasted as good after that first time. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ann Coleman says:

    What special memories! Isn’t it great how when we look back over our life, we don’t remember the stuff we had but the time we spent with our loved ones? That’s a good reminder for how we should prioritize our time now!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Dalo 2013 says:

    I had a hamburger with my Dad this past weekend at DQ, it was awesome…and for the reasons you share above. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Carla says:

    I was raised by a single mom (dad died when I was only 8) with four siblings. When mom took us to The Red Barn for a treat, we loved it. That was the first hamburger joint in our town. I still remember those visits. Great post Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

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